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Implications of COVID-19 on Ethno-Religious Tensions in Sri Lanka

Implications of COVID-19 on Ethno-Religious Tensions in Sri Lanka

The COVID-19 pandemic has wide ramifications for Sri Lanka, beyond health and economic constraints. It has fueled simmering ethno-religious tensions, making it clear that the country’s reconciliation process is far from complete. How have ethno-religious tensions come to the fore during the pandemic and what are the implications for the reconciliation process and for the roles of religious communities in addressing it?

Faith, Women, and Human Rights: A Global Dialogue on COVID-19

Woman and child sit in front of colorful textiles

Among the many discordant realities of the COVID-19 crisis are its very different repercussions for women. Their mortality is lower than men’s, while large majorities of frontline “carers” are women. Family and home are a source of comfort and refuge but also the site of rising domestic violence. Despite deficits of women’s leadership in many arenas, women leaders are singled out as outstanding examples in this crisis. Contradictory images about religious responses contrast patriarchal behaviors with selfless and courageous women’s action to support the most vulnerable in society.

COVID-19 and Religious Freedom in Latin America

Facade of a church in Brazil

The COVID-19 crisis and especially lockdown policies have highlighted a range of questions about government regulation of religious bodies in different Latin American countries. Issues arise in what is appreciated as a situation without precedents, a first epidemic crisis striking simultaneously all parts of the world and all communities. That explains why much is happening on the fly, but actions evoke some issues that are long-standing. A webinar with experts from Chile, Argentina, and Brazil on May 14 explored experience and issues. Four highlights were (a) wide agreement on the need to act in the face of the pandemic, (b) wide variations in situations among and within countries, (c) that religious freedom must not be viewed as optional in any sense is often poorly appreciated by governments, and (d) what the participants saw as significant and probably unnecessary overstepping of government interventions with religious communities. Across the region, the wide incidence of poverty, wide inequalities, and patterns of violence especially against women are accentuated by the crisis. Alfred Stepan’s “twin tolerations,” where state respects religion and vice versa, was highlighted as an important guiding principle.

COVID-19 Guidance for Religious Communities and Leaders

People wearing masks walk outside

In March 2020, the Religious Responses to COVID-19 project launched the "Faith and COVID-19: Resource Repository," a digital platform that collects and communicates reliable information related to religious actors in the coronavirus crisis and response. The repository organizes resources so they can be quickly found and used by policymakers, development practitioners, and faith actors who seek to work together in the COVID-19 response. Since the repository was launched, we have seen a steady stream of new guidance documents prepared and published by a range of organizations and networks. Critical reflection on COVID-19 guidance for religious communities and leaders sheds further light on the complexities of faith engagement in the pandemic. 

Religious Action on COVID-19: Efforts in the Field

A sign warning of COVID-19 in a German church

Religious communities and institutions are playing important and varied roles in the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and response. Although physical distancing measures have altered religious life across traditions, faith actors continue to provide essential financial as well as spiritual support for those in need around the world. The humanitarian work of religious communities and faith-inspired organizations will be central in the pandemic, as already vulnerable people, such as refugees and forced migrants, are even more susceptible to coronavirus. A closer look at specific examples of religious action on the COVID-19 crisis will help ongoing efforts to better integrate faith voices in public health response to the pandemic.

Preference to the Poor: Priority Ethics for Development Leaders

Scales of justice

Communities around the world are responding to COVID-19 as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank hold their annual spring meetings on April 14–17, 2020. Senior Fellow Katherine Marshall highlights priorities for development leaders attending the meetings, urging that the needs of poor and vulnerable people worldwide should take priority.

UNHCR High Commissioner Issues Challenge to Religious Leadership on Forced Migration

Eight people sit on a panel at the Peace With No Borders Conference, September 2019

Filippo Grandi, the high commissioner for the United Nations Refugee Organization (UNHCR), addressed a large interreligious gathering in Madrid in September 2019 (the annual Prayer for Peace organized by the lay Catholic Community of Sant’Egidio). He challenged himself with a question: “What am I, as an international institution official, doing here, in this religious setting?” He responded that his presence and this partnership have vital importance. The collective response to today’s forced displacement crisis is, he emphasized, a barometer of how the world’s institutions overall are dealing with peace and conflict, borders between countries, and relationships among different communities.

G20 Interfaith Forum 2018: Highlighting Ethical Dimensions of Global Issues

Katherine Marshall Speaking on a G20 Interfaith Forum Panel

The G20 annual summit of leaders (representing the world’s wealthiest nations) plays important roles in setting global agendas and in addressing critical issues. From its start in 2008, it has expanded in focus (from an initial agenda dominated by economics), while retaining an informal character (for example, there is no permanent secretariat). The event and process have therefore become a focal point for different groups interested both in the overall agenda and in specific topics. Groups respond to the specific priorities defined each year by the host country, often with elaborate preparations and advocacy campaigns. Groups that engage include global think tanks (T20), civil society (C20), and business (B20), alongside various ministerial processes and specific purpose working groups. In short, a meeting of leaders has become an important global institution, one that carries hope for both creativity and meaningful use of power.

Labor Day 2018: Exploring What We Mean by “Decent Work”

Labor Day 2018: Exploring What We Mean by “Decent Work”

Later this month (September 26-28), in Buenos Aires, the G20 Interfaith Forum will explore the present and future of work. The 2018 agenda of the G20 (which groups the world’s wealthiest economies and their leading partners) is shaped by the year’s host country, Argentina. It focuses this year sharply on questions about labor. Excitement combined with unease about how new technologies are shaping jobs and job markets underlie the agenda. On the surface the topic is framed positively, but underneath lurk some deep concerns: technology and globalization are reshaping the world of work, with upsides but also downsides. The latter include low wages, poor working conditions, job uncertainty, unemployment, underemployment, forced and child labor (including many forms of modern slavery), sweatshops, weak social protections, and threats to a stalwart of work advocacy: trade unions.